What does TV watching have to do with weight? A new study suggests that there might be a link between the two! The Journal of Children and Media study reports that children can become overweight as a result of early TV exposure. Pre-schoolers who watched more TV were also more likely to eat sweets and salty foods instead of fruits and vegetables. Eating high calorie foods, combined with more time being inactive, are early predictors of weight gain.
Researchers looked at children’s TV viewing habits along with using the Internet and playing video games throughout the day. They also took physical measurements of the children. Can you guess what they found?
Turns out that TV watching was most popular with children; study participants watched more than 10 hours of TV weekly. When combined with using the computer or playing video games, the average weekly “screen time” totaled 18.8 hours! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children limit preschoolers’ screen time to no more than 14 hours per week.
Childhood obesity has become a national issue, with as many as 10% of pre-schoolers being overweight or obese in the U.S. today. Targeting preschoolers is important because one of the easiest ways to make changes in TV watching and snacking habits is to do it before kids become overweight.
Follow these tips to ensure that your child isn’t spending too much time in front of a screen:
- Set limits. Decide what is an acceptable amount of screen time for your child each day and stick to it.
- Turn off the TV while you eat. This also allows parents and children to have time to talk together while they eat. Research shows people often eat less when they’re not distracted by television and can pay attention to how full they feel.
- Snack healthy. When you and your child do watch TV, make sure that you provide healthy snacks if your child gets hungry. Try chopped veggies, fresh fruit, yogurt, or cereal that’s low in sugar.
- Brainstorm alternate activities that you and your child enjoy. Try playing board or card games, doing a puzzle, or playing with play dough.
- Get active together! Head to a local park or playground, visit an indoor gym, go ice-skating together, or go for a bike ride through your neighborhood.
- Set an example. Children often mimic the behaviors of their parents. By setting an example and limiting your own time on the Internet or in front of the TV, you’re setting a healthy example for his or her future.
What’s your favorite activity to do with your child that doesn’t involve looking at a screen? Let us know in the comments section below!